NPRE researchers to validate computer coding for nuclear power plant operations


Susan Mumm, Editor

NPRE researchers to validate computer coding  for nuclear power plant operations
Caleb Brooks
Caleb Brooks
Researchers in Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at Illinois will collaborate in experiments and simulations to validate new computational tools the U.S. Department of Energy has developed for nuclear power plant design and safety analysis.

Assistant Profs. Caleb Brooks and Tomasz Kozlowski will work with NPRE alumni, Ling Zou, a scientist at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and Brian Golchert of Westinghouse Electric Co., on the $800,000, three-year project.

Simulating nuclear reactor systems is complicated because of the wide range of system conditions and associated physics. Also, codes must take into account regulatory demands in justifying safe operations and shutdowns of nuclear power plants. The challenges create a need for a considerable amount of validation data under varying conditions and configurations.

Tomasz Kozlowski
Tomasz Kozlowski
“As design processes improve, so must simulation results,” Kozlowski said. “We need new high fidelity core simulators for accurate prediction of new and innovative nuclear reactors. The new codes require extensive verification, validation and uncertainty quantification effort. Verification is done by the INL team as part of development. Validation is a much bigger effort that requires new experimental data that’s consistent with the fidelity level of the simulator being validated.”

Brooks will conduct experiments and produce data using his newly established Multiphase Thermo-fluid Dynamics Laboratory, housed on campus in Talbot Laboratory. Kozlowski will run the simulations. “Validation is the process of comparing the experimental data with the simulation results,” Brooks said.

“We have a new facility that can simulate a reactor channel under natural circulation cooling,” Brooks said of the new lab. “(The facility) is equipped with detailed instrumentation for measuring the heat transfer and fluid flow required for a comprehensive code validation.”